Governor in state with surging Covid cases says he regrets banning masks

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has said he regrets making a statewide ban on mask mandates now that cases in the state have surged.

Speaking in a press briefing on Tuesday, Hutchinson said he wished he had not made the law after he was asked whether signing the law in April was a “bad decision.”

He said: “Our cases were at a low point. ”Everything has changed now. And yes in hindsight I wish that had not become law but it is the law, and the only chance we have is either to amend it or for the courts to say that it has an unconstitutional foundation.”

It comes after it was revealed that the entire state is down to 25 available ICU beds in hospitals, a record low for the entire pandemic. According to US News & World Report, there are just over 1,100 total ICU beds across the whole state.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that there are currently 469 Covid patients in the ICU and the number of people hospitalized with Covid in Arkansas rose by 30 on Tuesday to 1,250 - the highest level since 19th January, according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

Hutchinson argued the law would have passed either way because “it would be overridden by the state legislature if I didn’t sign it.”

However, he has since passed various measures to strengthen restrictions. He reinstated Arkansas’ pandemic emergency declaration two months after he lifted it. The previous emergency window, declared in March 2020, expired on 30th May.

He is also calling on lawmakers to hold an emergency session to discuss making an exception to the mask mandate ban for public schools

Arkansas is third to last of all US states in the number of fully vaccinated residents - just 37 per cent, the New York Times reports, only ahead of Mississippi and Alabama.

Only 47 per cent of adults received just one dose, well under the national average of 58 per cent.

Vaccinations have also risen by more than 30,000 in recent days, the state’s third-largest one-day increase since the Health Department began recording the daily figures in January.

Hutchinson said roughly 25,000 of those were first doses, adding he was “pleased” with the increased demand.

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